Voke tells his own story
Nick Voke had an amazing run of three wins on the PGA Tour China in his first year as a professional golfer. The Aucklander, as an amateur, played golf for Iowa State University in the United States where his golfing career was in jeopardy following a skateboard accident in Ames, Iowa, during his freshman year of college.
I started playing golf when I was about 11 years old, which is late to the game. I played soccer growing up. My dad’s from England, and I wanted to be the next David Beckham. Since this is an interview for PGA Tour.com, and all the Yanks are reading this, I have to call it soccer instead of football, right?
I was a midfielder, and I marched the troops around. I was a decent player. Growing up, I would say I was better at soccer than I was at golf. When I was 14 years old, they were selecting the Auckland representative side. In the previous couple of years, I had made that team. I was really eager to make the team again because it would transition nicely to the New Zealand under-15 squad.
But a crazy thing happened. They were sending out the letters to those selected to this Auckland squad to go down for the Weir Rose Bowl Trophy. And I didn’t get my letter. I figured I must not be that good at soccer or not as good as I thought I was. What happened is I did make the team, and I received the letter three months later. When the letters went out, we had recently switched addresses — we moved homes. The letter went to my old address, so I didn’t get it.
At the time, I figured if I wasn’t good enough to make that team I should start playing and focusing on golf. That’s how I made the decision to turn to golf. I’m not looking back on that situation with anger, and it all worked out.
The father of one of my really good friends belonged to one of the golf courses where the sheep “mow” the fairway. It’s just a rinky-dink place, a nine-hole course, Wattle Downs. It was a perfect place to learn the game.
We were playing PlayStation one day, and my friend Daniel Masiutama’s dad, Ray, came in and said, “All right, boys. We’re going to play some golf.” And I was like, Ahh, not golf. But we went to the golf course, and we both loved it so much we signed up and never left the place. That’s how I was introduced to the game.
I reluctantly played nine holes and loved it. That course became the best babysitter for me. I’d go there and play 18 (holes), rest and then play another 18. The course was just up the road. I’d walk to school, then I’d walk home and get my clubs and walk to the course. It was just my place to be. That’s where I really honed my skills.
I played the Junior World in 2012 at Torrey Pines outside San Diego. I met some of the Iowa State coaches there, and one of the guys on Iowa State’s team, Duncan Croudis, was from New Zealand. So, he helped me. I was quite late to the whole recruiting process, and there were guys who had committed two or three years in advance. I had no idea that that was the standard. I had a few offers on the table, from Mercer University in Georgia, the University of San Diego and Oregon State University.
What really attracted me to Iowa State was the support team they have there. It is absolutely incredible. It’s a big reason why a lot of us internationals end up at Iowa State.
I always knew I wanted to pursue the academic side of things, and there is no better place in the world to do that than the NCAA level in the (United) States. I knew I could improve and develop as a golfer and as a person. Since I was 15 or 16, I knew I was going to go to the states. It just sort of depended on when and how.
I had an extraordinarily satisfying college career. I got off to a really fast start in my very first fall semester. I had two top-10s in a row, and three of my first four tournaments were top-10s. I think that kind of reinforced some bad behavior or behavior that isn’t advantageous to playing good golf.
You can imagine an 18-19-year-old going to college for the first time. I had a New Zealand accent, there was all the glamour of college. You can kind of get carried away. There is definitely some temptation there. My roommate, Ruben Sondjaja, and I used to joke around that that first semester we played much better than what we deserved. In the second semester, there was the expected slump to follow.
Ruben plays on the Mackenzie Tour. He is one of my best friends. I lived with him for four years in college. He’s such a good guy, a true gentleman. I think we were both taken in by the whole Ames community. They treated us so well. Once a Cyclone always a Cyclone.
At the end of my freshman year, I had a really bad, horrible accident. I was skateboarding down this hill, with Ruben behind me. I was going down Beach Avenue on the way to Jack Trice Stadium, from Maple (Street). I got to the bottom of the hill, and there was pothole in the middle of the road. On our way home, I was looking the wrong way, and I hit that and broke my collarbone. I still have eight screws in there. I also had a really bad concussion. The doctors thought I had brain damage when I was first admitted. It was not pretty at all.
I had already been out for two hours that night with Ruben. It was just after finals week, coming into our post-season. We had regionals coming up, and we ended up making it to finals. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play. The rescue guys wanted to helicopter me to the Des Moines hospital, but there were some tornadoes in the area, so they couldn’t get a chopper up. I went by ambulance to Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames.
I’m very, very fortunate to be playing golf after that. All I remember is I was going down the hill and then waking up in the hospital looking at Coach (Andrew) Tank, and I had a tube down my throat
I came back from that accident just a few weeks before the first event of the season. I ended up winning that tournament, the VCU Shootout. That was a dream start after having three months of the most tedious work I’ve ever done, rehabbing. It was a four-month recovery, but the first month I was out cold every day. I didn’t know what world I was in.
My dad wants me to burn my skateboard, and I want to frame it, so it will remind me of what I was and what I was doing. I feel like I’ve turned a page since then.
I still live in Ames. My primary coaches are the Iowa State coaches, coach Tank and coach Chad (Keohane). My girlfriend is in the states, so the last part is for me to get there. I’m planning a trip with my girlfriend to New Zealand for three weeks. I’ve been dating her for a long time now, and we’re really happy together. She works at Target headquarters in Minnesota and is an American girl.
I’ve been on a bit of a dream run here in China. I know there are a lot of peaks and troughs in this game. It’s not like I’m expecting anything bad to happen, but if it does happen, it’s a natural cycle that we all go through. Everybody has those patches where they don’t play that well. Credit: PGATOUR.COM.